I Will Never Walk My Child To School

I’ll never walk my child to school

I get to buy him uniform. I get to pack him snacks for playtime and fill a bottle of fresh water for him. I get to buy him a nice warm winter coat, new footwear, and a nice new bag.

But I’ll never walk my child to school.

I’ll never get to wave to him as he joins his line for the first time. I’ll never get to say good morning to his friends, kiss him goodbye at the gate, exchange pleasantries with other parents or pop into the office with his forgotten pencil case.

I wish I could walk my child to school.

It’s not the biggest thing to want. It’s not expensive or overly time consuming or rare to see. I just want to hold his hand or walk beside him in the morning and at 3 o’clock like other parents get to do with their children.

I never had it at the nursery stage but somehow that didn’t seem quite as bad. He’ll grow up never seeing my face just before he enters school to be away from me for six hours. Whatever his day was like I won’t ever be the smile that greets him or the hand that takes his as he leaves school behind for another day.

He’s still young and he needs me. I should be walking him to school.

There’s a wonderful school so close to us. Not too big, not too small, with such a friendly, welcoming ethos. I should have been buying burgundy jumpers to match his sister and seeing him laugh with friends in the school playground minutes from my house. When I sit in the garden listening to the children in my daughter’s school play outside I close my eyes and dream that my son is there too, kicking a ball about, chatting to friends, sharing life.

Instead I say my goodbyes at the front gate handing my son over to strangers who change every academic year. I strap him in a car seat, kiss his tender little cheek and tell him I love him. He never waves back. He rarely even looks at me.

I long to walk him to school.

We would splash in puddles. We would laugh when the wind blows our umbrellas inside out. I would listen intently as he told me about his day, his lessons, and who was star of the week. He would nag me to leave him at the gate instead of the line as he got older and we would get excited in winter walking in snow and making footprints. I know this because I get to do all of that, and more, with his sister.

Walking your child to school is so much more than just a menial daily chore. It’s bonding with your child, giving them priceless security and routine, its allowing your child uninterrupted special time to de stress and transition from school to home. It’s being familiar with their school, knowing the office staff by name,smiling at their teacher and having a chance to sort things out quickly because you are right there where you should be.

Is it wrong that I want that for my son too?

To know he has arrived safely, to walk home myself feeling at peace, to know where he is and that he is safe, to feel comfortable with the people who are looking after him and teaching him.

I’ll never walk my child to school and that simple, everyday loss is so hard to deal with sometimes.

My son has complex needs so has to go by transport to school many miles from home. I correspond with the school via short sentences in a diary. I don’t know what door my child enters the school or exits or if he even lines up outside. I don’t get to see his playground, his friends, or the staff. I have to assume he has arrived safely and he is well even when the weather is awful or I hear of accidents on the route. I can’t pop in with a forgotten snack or a form and even when I call them my voice or name isn’t familiar.

I wish it was different but it’s not.

Please don’t take it for granted when you walk your child to school. Some parents, like me, will never know that simple joy.

Today is just another morning that I never walked my child to school.

Advertisements

The only things that are fair are my time and my love

IMG_1427

‘Why doesn’t my brother get homework mummy?’
‘But I don’t get to go to soft play in my school!’

And so the realisation begins at the tender age of 5 that life isn’t fair.

It is hard for any child to understand why a brother or sister appears to be treated differently or seems to get preferential treatment. Sometimes that can be explained away when there are large age gaps between siblings, or different parentage or illness. But when the inequalities of life are so obvious even within a set of twins it makes understanding the concept of fairness even harder.

I have been thinking of how to answer my daughter’s questions long before she has had the understanding to voice them. I remember begging a nursery head teacher almost three years ago at this time to make every effort to ensure both my children were photographed together in the nursery even though they were in different classrooms. Plans were already being made to move one of the twins out of mainstream nursery and into specialist provision and somehow I already knew this was the start of their long term separation. Despite huge difficulties even getting Isaac into the room that lady moved heaven and earth for my dream to come true. I remember saying then I had this uneasy feeling it would be the last time my twins would ever attend the same educational setting and be able to be photographed together. Although, due to a house move, 12 months later they did manage to once again attend the same nursery temporarily they missed the annual photographers visit and so this photo means so much to me.

IMG_1426

It was the end of life being fair for my babies.

Because of his complex needs Isaac moved on from his additional support needs nursery placement to a school for children with complex needs. Whilst his twin sister remained at nursery for an extra year.

It didn’t seem fair that one four year old had to travel alone in a taxi with strangers while the other got to go in a bus with other children. It didn’t seem fair that one four year old had to be out of the house for 7 and a half hours 5 days a week while the other only had nursery for a few hours a day. It wasn’t fair that one child got so much time with mum and dad while the other came home so tired he fell asleep before his dinner was even made. On the other hand while one 4 year old with autism was getting intense 1-1 support, horse riding, the use of a school hydrotherapy pool every week, weekly trips to the school soft play and sensory room and use of interactive TV and an iPad the other was mostly playing trains, going to the park or playing with her dolls house. Both children born to the same parents on the same day and both diagnosed with autism yet both experiencing life so differently. They were just too young to notice or care.

But now since starting mainstream school herself we are starting to get more questions from our daughter. She has a ‘thing’ for rules and equality and fairness. So why does her brother not get homework while she does? Why does he get to do so many ‘fun’ activities at his school while she has to do so many ‘jobs’ at hers? Why? Why? Why?

I could go into a long explanation about how he requires so much more in order to be able to support his learning. I could explain how the spectrum of autism is so wide and how that means some children need all sorts of intense experiences to help them to communicate and understand the world and how she is able to understand things without needing all these things. I could explain how we never chose for life to be like this and we would like nothing more than for them both to be at her school and doing the same work. I could talk to her about how her brother is non verbal while she is very verbal so he needs much more support and help to be understood. I could explain his Neurofibromatosis to her, or talk about his global developmental delay, or how he is still wearing nappies, or even say how he isn’t ready to learn and do all the things she is doing in school.

But I just couldn’t manage to explain all that in a way that would hold a five year olds attention or in a way that would make her feel just as special and loved as her brother.

So for now I took the easy option. I just said that life isn’t fair and sometimes it can seem like some people get all the good things and others get lots of hard things. But God sees it all and loves us all equally. And mummy and daddy think both her and her brother are equally special even though they are so different. She seemed to accept that.

But then I said, ‘you know what Naomi, mummy will try and make her time fair. So let’s us go spend some time just you and me doing your wonderful reading and letters and numbers together. Then you can get some peace playing trains while I spend some time with your brother. Does that sound fair?’

I can’t make it right for either of them. And the harsh reality is that one will always need more resources, input and support than the other twin. As they get older the differences will only increase. In time I will be able to explain and talk to my daughter more.

And tonight will not be the only night when they only things that will be fair will be my time and my love.

I walked beside you

I recently had the privilege of going on a walk with my son’s school. He attends a school for children with severe and complex needs. There was nearly as many adults on the walk as there were children. There were wheelchairs, crutches, walkers and a high percentage of children who have no speech. It was truly one of the most beautiful walks I have had the honour of being on.
I was holding my own son’s hand and here is how our walk went:

I walked beside you on the school trip one day
Holding your hand all of the way
You don’t see danger in the way that I do
You don’t know the way but trust that I do
I see the hedges, you pull the thorns
I watch for traffic, you laugh at horns.
I point out the library, you yearn for the doors
You pull to get in there and drop to all fours
The walk has now halted, a child is down
The teacher shows you photos and we keep walking through town

I walked beside you on the school trip one day
You held onto my hand for all of the way
You don’t see life in the way that I do
The innocence of childhood embodied in you
I see the challenges, you just see play
I worry for the future, you just live for the day
I point out the park, you just see the stream
As I pull you away you just let out a scream
Teachers come running with photos in hand
They knew this might happen, so they had it all planned

I walked beside you on the school trip one day
You taught me so much as we went on our way
Your mind is years younger than the body it uses
You keep falling over, legs covered in bruises
But you keep getting up and you keep going on
You may not have words but you sing your own song
You laugh at the birds and you flap at a fence
The joy that these bring you is pure and immense
I need more of your joy, I need more of your zest
We could walk so much further, but today let us rest.

I walked beside you like I always do
You needing me and me needing you.

20140616-210151-75711046.jpg